Saturday, December 7, 2019

All The Trek News That's Fit To Trek

There were a lot of Star Trek stories in the news this week one good, two sad so I might as well combine 'em all into one post. 

Let's start with the good (I guess) news. This week saw the 40th Anniversary (!!!) of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which premiered on December 6, 1979. Holy crap! It came out FORTY YEARS ago? 

How the hell is that even possible? There's definitely something wrong with time lately, as it's flowing way too fast.

I remember rushing to the theater to see it, as this was the first new live-action Trek we'd gotten in ten years. Sadly, it left me profoundly disappointed, as it's a deeply flawed film that doesn't feel like the old series at all

For example, who thought it was a good idea to introduce two brand new characters in this movie, which took precious screen time away from the regular cast we all knew and loved? And why create two brand new crew members, only to kill them at the end (SPOILERS!)?

It's also pretty much a big-budget remake of The Changeling, an episode from Season 2 of the Original Series. We waiting ten years for a rerun?

My opinion of it's softened over the years, and while I no longer dislike it, it's far from my favorite of the Trek films.

Forty years!

As for the sad news, R.I.P. to DC Fontana, who died December 2 at age 80. Her name may not be a household word, but she was well known among the Trek community. She was the first female writer on the Original Series, hence the initials so the studio execs wouldn't realize she was a dumb ol' girl. 

Fontana wrote many memorable episodes, including Journey To Babel, which introduced Spock's parents. She also created and solidified many of the characteristics of the Vulcan race.

She had quite a long career outside of Trek, writing for such shows as The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, Logan's Run, Land Of The Lost and Babylon 5.

R.I.P. as well to actor Robert Walker Jr., who died December 5 at age 79. 

Trek fans will remember him as Charlie, the confused teen with the powers of a god from the First Season episode Charlie X

Walker was Hollywood royalty, as he was the son of actors Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones. In addition to Trek, he was in several movies (Ensign Pulver, The War Wagon) and guest starred on many TV series, including Route 66, Ben Casey, Combat!, Bonanza, The Time Tunnel, The Six Million Dollar Man, Quincy, ME, Charlie’s Angels, Columbo, CHiPs, L.A. Law and Murder, She Wrote.

The Flash Season 6, Episode 8: The Last Temptation Of Barry Allen, Part 2

This week on The Flash we get the conclusion to the two part The Last Temptation Of Barry Allen storyline, as well as the wrap-up to the whole Bloodwork arc.

Overall it's a pretty decent episode, despite a few unfortunate misfires. Tthere's lots of action, plenty of angst, horror movie tropes and more blood zombies than you can shake a stick at. And to top it all off, we get a welcome and honestly surprising look at Ramsey Rosso in his monstrous Bloodwork final form— and he looks exactly like he does in the comic!

Best of all, for the first time since he was introduced, Bloodwork felt like an actual threat, and not just a guy who stood around constantly monologuing about saving the world by killing it or whatever the hell his plan was. Too bad we didn't get this Bloodwork in every episode. He's whisked away as quickly as possible in the third act, to clear the playing field for the upcoming Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover.

As I said last week, I've been extremely underwhelmed by Bloodwork. He turned out to be a huge dud. His origin could have been covered in one episode, but was dragged out into three. 
Hell, his story arc was only eight episodes long and it STILL felt padded! He even sat out a week!

This episode just highlighted the fact that Bloodwork should have been a one-off villain, appearing in one intense episode instead of six mediocre ones and a decent capper. There just wasn't enough to him to warrant an extended arc.

I was also disappointed by the so-called Dark Flash this week. The previous episode ended on a cliffhanger, as we saw Barry'd been possessed by Bloodwork's, er, blood. Wow, Bloodwork's now got an evil speedster on his payroll! Imagine all the mayhem Dark Flash will commit. Seems pretty ominous and exciting, right?

Wrong. Instead of infecting Central City at superspeed, Dark Flash does absolutely nothing. Wait, that's not quite true. Sadly he spends most of the episode posing for the camera, with a supposedly evil grin on his face, that just came off as goofy. Seriously, that's it. That's literally all he does! Talk about a missed opportunity!

Even with those misgivings, this episode's still better than any featuring either of the Cicadas. Bring on the Crisis!


The Plot:
Picking up where we left off last week, Barry— who's been possessed by Bloodwork— zooms out of STAR Labs, knocking out Team Flash. Frost wakes and checks on the others. She tells Cisco and Iris that Barry is now one of Bloodwork's "Blood Brothers," and under his control.

Cisco instantly springs into action and opens yet another secret panel. He pulls a lever and an impenetrable forcefield surrounds STAR Labs. He says nothing can get in or out, not even their comm signals. Where the frak has this thing been the past six seasons? Frost uses a police scanner she stole, and explains that because it's analog it can pick up signals outside the field. They hear screams of terror as Bloodwork and his Blood Brothers attack the citizens of Central City.

Cisco shows Iris a photon emitter that he believes will irradiate Bloodwork, eliminating the black blood inside him and curing anyone else he's infected. He says they should use it on Bloodwork first, then on Barry. Iris is reluctant, fearing the untested device could kill her husband before he's scheduled to die in the Crisis.

Meanwhile in the disposable C plot, Cecile's at The Citizen for some reason. She senses fear with her empathic powers and folds up into the fetal position. Kamilla enters and asks what's wrong, and Cecile says her senses are being overwhelmed by the building full of Blood Brothers. The two decide they have to get out of the building and make their way to STAR.

Outside, Blood Brothers roam the city, infecting the populace. Joe tells his men the blood zombies are innocent, and to use non-lethal force against them. Bloodwork appears and tells Joe that he's going to transform the entire city, and there's nothing he can do to stop them. Just then Frost breaches onto the scene, presumably to help Joe (I guess?).

Joe starts to fire on Bloodwork, but just then the possessed Dark Flash zooms up with an innocent woman. Bloodwork grabs her by the throat and possesses her as well. Joe tries to get through to Barry, but he croaks that humanity's broken and needs fixing. Bloodwork boasts that he's cured death, and he and Dark Flash speed away. The Blood Brothers turn and surround Joe & Frost.

Elsewhere, Nash Wells is STILL in the sewers, trying to open The Monitor's secret door. He monologues, saying he's tracked The Monitor across the Multiverse, and he's finally going to kill him or something. Just then the power goes out all over the city. Suddenly The Monitor's voice rings out, telling Nash if he bows before him all he desires will be his. Nash turns on a light and sees he's face to face with a Blood Brother.

Back at The Citizen, Kamilla tells Cecile that the Blood Brothers are all afraid. She says Cecile should be able to sense their fear so they can avoid them and escape. They sneak through the darkened building, narrowly avoiding the zombies, until they reach the stairwell. They then head for STAR Labs.

At STAR, Iris listens to the police radio. Dark Flash addresses her, telling her to meet him "where their life together began." Cisco warns her its a trap, but Iris grabs a breacher and goes anyway. She teleports to their apartment, where Dark Flash is waiting for her. Suddenly Bloodwork begins speaking through him, offering her immortality. Cisco somehow taps into the breacher so he can listen to their exchange. Iris tries to get through to the real Barry, but he raises his hand and prepares to vibrate it through her chest. He stops, saying it's "not her time" and speeds off. Convenient!

Iris breaches back to STAR and says she has to try to save Barry again. Cisco tells her Barry's gone and they have to accept that. He says this is the moment Barry prepared them for— when he's no longer around. He says he's finished the emitter and is ready to use it on Bloodwork & Dark Flash.

On the street, Joe & Frost battle the blood zombies. One of them slashes at Joe, severely injuring him. Frost finally remembers she has superpowers and releases a blast of cold, knocking out all the zombies. One gets up and Allegra appears from out of nowhere, knocking it out with a lead pipe.

Cisco breaches onto the scene and uses the emitter against Bloodwork. He weakens and falls to his knees, and for a while it looks like he may finally be defeated. Just then Dark Flash zips to the scene and throws Cisco to the ground, breaking the emitter. Bloodwork grabs Cisco by the throat and lifts him up, ready to kill him.

Suddenly Bloodwork stops and says he has a better idea. He says he'll use STAR Labs' Particle Accelerator to spread his blood over all of Central City. He lets Cisco go and tells him to warn the others (?).

Cisco returns to STAR, where he confirms that last week Barry hacked into the Particle Accelerator, readying it for Bloodwork's plan. Frost and Allegra arrive with the injured Joe. Caitlin emerges and examines Joe. She says his only hope is for Frost to freeze his wound. After a Patented The CW Pep Talk®, Frost manages to do so.

Cisco realizes that Bloodwork parroted Barry's earlier words. From this he deduces that the link between Bloodwork and Dark Flash works both ways, and Barry's attempting to communicate with them and tell them how to win. He realizes Barry wants them to allow Bloodwork to use the Accelerator (?).

Just then Bloodwork, Dark Flash and an army of zombies arrive at STAR. Cisco lowers the forcefield, and the group enter. Bloodwork and Dark Flash head for the Accelerator, while the zombies look for Team Flash. In the Cortex, Cisco tells the others his plan— they'll let Bloodwork release his blood into the Pipeline, and at the appropriate moment Allegra (lucky she came along!) will hit it with an intense blast of UV rays, which should somehow fix everything. Comic Book Science!

Bloodwork releases a dollop of his black blood into a chamber and Dark Flash sends it into the Accelerator, where it begins flying around and around the Pipeline. When it gathers enough speed, it'll become aerosolized and disperse over the city. Anyone who breathes the air will then become infected by Bloodwork.

Dark Flash then brings Iris & Cisco before Bloodwork. He orders Dark Flash to kill them, but Barry wavers, which infuriates Bloodwork. He tells Barry that resistance is futile, and forces him to kneel. Suddenly Iris shoots Bloodwork several times with a blaster she got from somewhere, which knocks him out.

Cisco opens the Pipeline door. Just then Frost and Allegra enter, having fought their way through a horde of blood zombies. Cisco tells Allegra to let 'er rip, and she fires an intense blast of UV energy into the Pipeline. It charges the blood, creating another Particle Accelerator explosion.

The shockwave sweeps over the city, somehow killing the black blood cells in all the zombies and causing them to collapse. A few seconds later the formerly infected citizens wake and are none the worse for wear.

In the sewers, Nash is fighting for his life against a group of blood zombies. He's overrun and about to be infected when the UV wave hits the tunnel and cures the zombies. Nash, unaware of what's happening up top, believes The Monitor saved him.

Back at STAR, Iris rushes to Barry, who assures her he's cured as well. They notice Bloodwork's gone. Barry speeds away after him and finds him in the street. He tells Bloodwork he won't let him harm anyone else ever again. A frustrated Bloodwork says he's trying to save people, not hurt them. Apparently he's so aggravated at constantly being misunderstood that he hulks out, turning into his massive, disgusting blood monster form from the comics.

We then get a brief and expensive CGI battle between Barry & Bloodwork. The monster slashes at Barry a few times, but he counters with superspeed and a couple of lightning punches. Bloodwork rallies and pins Barry to a car. He's about to deliver the killing blow when his late mother Rachel appears and scolds him. Bloodwork reverts to human form, as Rachel says she knows he means well, but he's gone a little too far and become an angel of destruction.

Bloodwork asks what the hell's going on. Barry says he used their (former) connection to bring the memory of Rachel out of Bloodwork's mind. He says he'd give anything for one more day with his own mother, and figured Bloodwork would do the same. Bloodwork hesitates, and Barry speeds him into the MAC chamber, which apparently switches functions depending on the needs of the plot. Ramsey vows he'll escape and complete his destiny, but they seal the chamber and silence him.

Sometime later, Iris says they shipped Bloodwork to ARGUS, where he'll be their problem from now on. Unfortunately his HLH is still a thing, and he'll likely die. Frost reverts to Caitlin, saying she should be with her friends when the Crisis arrives.

So the whole gang just sits in the Lounge, waiting for the Crisis to happen, which they somehow know will occur precisely at 12 midnight (?). Everyone then goes around the room saying how great Barry is, and how lucky they all are to have him in their lives. Iris tells Barry their story isn't ending here.

Suddenly midnight arrives and the skies over Central City turn an ominous red.

In the sewer, Nash now has a change of heart toward The Monitor and feels indebted to him for saving his life (???). 
The Monitor (or is it?) says Nash knows what to do next, as the seven runes on the door begin to glow. Nash somehow knows how to press them in the proper sequence. The door opens, revealing a blinding white light inside. Nash screams as he's pulled in and the door shuts.


• For the second week in a row, Cisco runs to part of the lab, yanks a secret panel open and reveals a secret storage space. How many more of these stashes does he have hidden in STAR Labs?

• Cisco activates the Babel Protocol, an impenetrable forcefield that prevents anyone or anything from leaving or entering STAR Labs. There's a lot to unpack in this short & simple little scene.

First of all, we've seen the Babel Protocol before, back in the Season 4's Mixed Signals. In that episode, Cisco made Barry a brand new Iron Man armor, er, I mean Flash suit, filled with dozens of hi-tech gadgets and functions. The Babel Protocol was a self-destruct mechanism, which would allow Cisco to kill the Flash if he ever "went dark."

I guess it makes sense, but it's kind of unnerving knowing Cisco could kill his "best friend" any time he wanted!

Secondly, this Babel Protocol 2.0 protects STAR Labs by surrounding it with a powerful forcefield. Where the hell has this thing been for the past six seasons? Just think of how many times it would have came in handy to protect Team Flash from various supervillains!

To be fair, based on Cisco's dialogue it sounds like something new he just added. Still... it would have been nice if he'd thought of it a long time ago. Now that STAR Labs has this function, let's see how often the writers remember it. I have a feeling this may be the one and only time it's ever featured on the show.

On the other hand... this forcefield made its debut right before the Crisis. Maybe it'll end up protecting STAR from the wave of anti-matter!

Lastly, when the forcefield goes up, Cisco tells Frost, "Nothing gets in, nothing goes out. Not even our comms." Of course we know a declarative statement like that's not gonna stand. Sure enough, a couple minutes later Frost uses a police band radio to communicate with the outside world. Whoops!

They try handwaving this away by saying the police walkie can get through the field because it's an analog device. Ehhhh, I guess I'll allow it, but it seems like a stretch. Somebody on the writing staff's been watching Pacific Rim!

Also, Iris, Cisco and Frost have no trouble breaching in and out of STAR Labs while the forcefield's up. I guess that makes a small amount of sense, since the breachers are interdimensional transporters. Still seems a bit sketchy though. 

OK, this horse is good & dead. Time to quit beatin' it!

• Cisco debuts his brand new photon emitter that he's cobbled together. Yeah, that's just a flashlight, dude.

Cisco and Iris then have the following conversation about the flashlight, er, I mean the emitter:

Cisco: "It's not a ray gun, it's a weapon that can deliver megadoses of photon radiation The same kind of radiation typically administered to cancer patients."
Iris: "What exactly does it do?"
CIsco: "My theory is that these photons could be strong enough to destroy Ramsey's sentient infection. If I get close enough to blast him, he should revert back to his human form. He'd still have HLH, but at least he wouldn't be a gooey zombie overlord anymore."
Iris: "What about everyone else that was infected? Would they be cured?"
Cisco: "Yes. They'd lose the goo, they'd go back to normal. But since Ramsey's the only one who can create more Blood Brothers, I say we hit at him first. Then Dark Flash."
Iris: "And you've tested this?"
Cisco: "Well, I haven't even finished building it, so no, no I haven't tested it."
Iris: "So let me get this straight. You wanna shoot radiation at my husband out of some crazy powerful device that you've never tested?"

Wow, a lot going on there! First of all, the photo radiation Cisco speaks of is a real thing. It's generally either x-rays or gamma rays, and is indeed used to treat cancer patients.

Secondly, I love that he's so confident about this device he's put together, without a second of real-world testing or the smallest thread of proof that it works.

Lastly, why the hell does Iris ask if he's tested it clearly isn't even finished yet? Derp!

• I'll be honest— I was expecting a lot more from Dark Flash. Sadly, all he did for the majority of the episode was stand next to Bloodwork with an evil, yet oddly goofy grin on his face.

• Although the Cecile/Kamilla subplot was completely superfluous and didn't further the story in any way, it was actually pretty intense! It was filmed as one long tracking shot, following the two women through a variety of hallways and offices as they tried to avoid the blood zombies. That couldn't have been easy, as it had to have taken a lot of effort and planning. Kudos!

• At one point Cecile and Kamilla hide under a desk from a pursuing blood zombie. Hilariously, there's a light underneath the desk so we're able to see them as they're crouching beneath it! HAW! Everyone's got a lap light under their desk, right? I know I do!

• I've been meaning to address this for a while now, and this is as good a time as any. Let's talk about Frost's eyes, shall we? In addition to her white hair and indigo lipstick, she's got what appears to be patches of glitter in the corner of her eyes.

I assume this is supposed to be ice or frost, right? I mean it's obviously makeup in the real world, but unless she can somehow conjure up glitter when she transforms, it's gotta be ice in the reality of the show.

Whatever the hell it's supposed to be, I hate it. Rather than coming off as edgy or alluring (as I assume it's supposed to), it ends up looking like she's sporting a pair of massive eye boogers.

• At one point Joe & Frost are out on the street, surrounded by a horde of blood zombies. Rather than throw up an ice shield to protect herself and Joe, Frost just starts punching the zombies. After a good half hour of street brawling, she finally remembers she's a meta and knocks the creatures on their collective asses with a might ice clap (?).

I'm assuming she held back on her powers because the show spent most of this week's FX budget on Bloodwork's true form.

• After Frost stuns the zombies, one somehow wakes and attacks again. Suddenly Allegra appears out of nowhere and clocks it in the head with a baseball bat, Negan-style.

OK, first of all, that zombie woman's definitely got a crushed skull now. Once Team Flash cures them all at the end, she won't be getting back up. What happened to using non-lethal force on the "innocent" zombies? I guess Allegra didn't get that memo.

Secondly, what an incredibly lucky break that Allegra just happened to wander onto the scene. If she didn't show up when she did, then she wouldn't have helped Frost take Joe to STAR Labs, and wouldn't have used her UV powers to irradiate Bloodwork's blood bomb and save Central City! 

In fact without her completely coincidental presence, everyone in Central City would now be one of Bloodwork's zombies. Talk about lucky breaks!

• Thanks, episode, for the ultra extreme closeup of Bloodwork's mouth as he speaks, complete with a persistent string of saliva connecting his black, gooey lips. Yuck.

• In the third act, Bloodwork tries using the Particle Accelerator to aerosolize his blood and infect the entire city. Suddenly Iris pulls a large blaster from somewhere and starts firing away at Bloodwork! 

I was gonna say she must have pulled it directly out of her ass, because that's the only place it could have come from in the otherwise empty room.

I watched the scene a couple more times though, and it appears she's actually holding the blaster when Dark Flash zooms her into the room. It's easy to miss though, as she's holding it at the bottom of the frame and drops it the instant she enters the room. Never mind!

• Ever since Allegra was inexplicably introduced, it's been a running gag on the show that she gets upset when she finds out the other characters aren't filling her in on all their deepest secrets— because she's entitled to know everything, goddammit! In this episode Frost breaches her directly into STAR Labs, where she becomes an unofficial member of Team Flash? Hopefully she's happy now and will quit whining about not being informed.

• When Barry's in his Dark Flash mode, it looks like his nails have grown into nasty, discolored talons for some reason, tearing through the fingers of his gloves.

Once he reverts to normal though, you can clearly see his gloves are once again intact! Whoops! C'mon, The Flash Costume Department! You're not even trying!

Maybe Cisco added a self-healing function into Barry's suit?

• Team Flash saves the day by causing yet another Particle Accelerator explosion that sweeps over Central City— but a beneficial one this time.

At this point I imagine most residents are so shell-shocked and traumatized they don't even look up anymore. "Owen, look! STAR Labs is exploding again!" "Eh? That's nice, dear."

• During the end battle, Bloodwork morphs into final form, and it's truly something to behold.

Kudos to The Flash's FX team for whipping up such a wonderfully disgusting creation. I love all the gross and disturbing textures, as it looks like he's made up of pulsating sacs of blood. The only downside is that effects like these are pricey, so they couldn't afford to give him much screentime.

Amazingly, Bloodwork's boss form looks VERY close to the comic book version. Well done, guys! I'm really impressed! I honestly didn't think they'd go there, and we'd have to settle for an Indian guy in casual wear.

• After the battle, Barry zooms Bloodwork into the MAC chamber for safe keeping. Which is something he probably should have done five or six episodes ago, but I digress. 

Anyway, apparently MAC stands for "Multiple Application Chamber, because its function seems to regularly change with the needs of the script. In Into The Void, it was described as a "Mental Augmentation Chamber," designed to help boost Barry's cognitive abilities and give him "speed-thinking."

Later in that same episode Team Flash places Chester Runk in the MAC, in order for it to stabilize his subatomic particles (?). 

And now it's being used as an alternate to the STAR Labs Secret Super Jail. Make up your mind, writers!

• Once Bloodwork's defeated, Team Flash retires to the STAR Labs Lounge. There they all nervously wait for midnight and the kickoff of the Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Wait, what? Was it ever established in any previous episode that Crisis would begin precisely at midnight on December 10, 2019? Yeah, I didn't think so either.

And yet once the clock strikes twelve, the skies over Central City start glowing red.

Hey, Barry & Iris! Quit staring at the sky and get busy making Baby Nora before it's too late!

• At the end of the episode, Nash experiences the quickest change of heart in history. According to him, he's been on a mission to destroy The Monitor for years. Maybe even decades. Why he wants to do this is apparently none of our concern, as it's never addressed.

Anyway, Nash is about to be infected by a dog pile of blood zombies. Suddenly a wave of UV energy sweeps through the sewer, transforming the zombies back into normal citizens. Nash mistakenly believes the wave was the work of The Monitor, and INSTANTLY changes his opinion about him and feels indebted to him. Seriously? That'd be like an obsessed Nazi hunter searching for Hitler for decades, only to finally find him and decide to befriend him when he sees the former Fuhrer playing with his dog!

• So what the heck's going on with Nash in the tag scene?


First things first, in addition to The Monitor, there's also a counterpart, called you guessed it The Anti-Monitor! The Anti-Monitor lived in an antimatter universe, and ultimately conquered it (that's quite a feat!). He then tried to invade the Multiverse, but The Monitor fought to stop him.

The two battled for millennia and eventually fought each other to a standstill. They then went into stasis for nine billion years (!).

Cut to nine billion years later. A scientist named Kell Mossa, who lived on an unknown Earth in the Multiverse, became obsessed with discovering the origin of the Universe. He built a chamber that would allow him to peer back in time. He looked back to the moment of creation, and saw what appeared to be a giant hand shaping the Universe from a lump of energy.

The Universe reacted violently to Mossa's spying, and the resulting disturbance woke both Monitors. The Anti-Monitor then created a wall of antimatter that enveloped countless worlds in the Multiverse.

Mossa was somehow transformed into a being called Pariah, who was impervious to the antimatter wave, and cursed to witness the destruction of every Earth.

Here in the Arrowverse, it's obvious that Nash Wells is destined to become Pariah. I know this because the producers and Tom Cavanagh himself confirmed it— and even released photos of him in costume. 

Obviously the TV version differs quite a bit from his comic counterpart. For one thing, Nash has some sort of unspecified beef against The Monitor. I'm assuming Nash' world was wiped out by antimatter, and he thinks it's The Monitor's fault? I dunno. Hopefully the Crisis crossover will fill us in.

Based on this episode, it's also very apparent that Nash isn't speaking to The Monitor here, but his evil counterpart. Just listen to "The Monitor's" dialogue: "Bow down to me and all you desire shall be yours." Everything he says is "bow down this" and "kneel that."

Who else do we know in DC movies who liked to say "Kneel before me" a lot? Zod of course! Zod, the evil Kryptonian. Supervillains just love telling people to bow down before them. So it's obvious here that that's actually The Anti-Monitor on the other side of that door. Heck, he's likely even imprisoned there. And Nash just let him loose! Meaning the entire Crisis is Nash' fault! Thanks a lot, Nash!

• Nash sees the seven symbols glowing on the door. The (Anti) Monitor tells him, "The knowledge is within you," and he touches the symbols in a particular order, which opens the door.

So how'd he know the combination? Why's the knowledge within him? Inquiring minds want to know.

• This Week's Best Lines:
Cisco: (as he tries to talk Iris out of confronting Dark Flash) "But if you go out there and that's not Barry, you could get infected or worse. Please."
Iris: "In sickness and in health."

Cisco: (as he blasts Bloodwork with his photon emitter) "Feel the burn, Bloodwork!"

Bloodwork: "Go, tell your team the great STAR Labs Particle Accelerator is ready to fulfill its true purpose. Salvation is nigh."

Cisco: "An ass-whipping is nigh, pal And you're gonna lose, Ramsey. You're gonna lose."
Bloodwork: "Plucky, right up until the end."

Cisco: "God, I remember the old days. No doppelgangers, no Flashpoint, no time travel. It was just us against the bad guys. I miss that."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Manure-Covered Toys. I Hate Manure-Covered Toys!

This is actually old news, but I just now found out about it. A few years back, Mattel released a series of Hot Wheels die cast cars based on Back To The Future. As you can see here, they released Marty McFly's 4-Wheel Drive Pickup, Doc Brown's Time-Traveling DeLorean and... some sort of third vehicle...

That third one would be Biff Tannen's Ford Super De Luxe Convertible... covered in a pile of manure.

I honestly thought this was a well-done spoof when I first saw it, but it's 100% real!

Here's a shot of the scene in question, in case you forgot. Seriously? Was there really no other vehicle they could have used to round out the wave? Did they really reach the bottom of the barrel after two cars and have to resort to using a sh*t-covered convertible?

Fortunately Mattel had the presence of mind to make the poop pile removable, so you can pop it off and display the car feces-free.

"Manure-covered toys. I hate manure-covered toys!"

The Mandalorian Season 1, Chapter 4: Sanctuary

This week on The Mandalorian we get another obvious homage episode, but it's a good obvious homage episode. 

Sanctuary most definitely takes its inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai, as Manny lands on a remote planet and helps a group of peaceful farmers fight back against a band of Raiders.

As I said last week, I kind of wish they'd dial back the homages, but eh... Star Wars has been influenced by westerns and pulp sci-fi from Day One, so it's unlikely to start changing now.

That minor reservation aside, so far The Mandalorian hasn't let me down. It's still consistently good and I can't wait to see where the series is going. To be honest, the show's making me a little nervous. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop and the producers to deliver a dud. Hopefully that won't happen.

This week's episode introduces Cara Dune, an awesome new character and the first female of note in the series so far. More on her later.

I'm definitely liking the low stakes in this series, as we get episodes set in the outskirts of the Star Wars Universe, away from all the Skywalker business. It's nice to see there are planets in which the inhabitants know nothing about the Force and all that.

Sanctuary was directed by Bryce Dallas Howard of all people. Yeah, that Bryce Dallas Howard! Looks like she's following in her famous father's footsteps, as she dips her toe in the world of directing. She's previously directed a series of shorts, but nothing of note. Despite her inexperience, she does a great job here.


The Plot:
On the backwater world of Sorgan, a lightly populated backwater world. A community of humanoid krill farmers harvests their shallow ponds. Suddenly they hear a noise from the nearby woods. Laser blasts fire from above, causing the farmers to scatter for cover. A young girl named Winta freezes, and her mother Omera runs to save her. They hear something coming, so they hide in one of the shallow krill ponds.

Just then a group of Klatooinian Raiders bursts from the forest. They steal the villager's krill harvest, destroying their equipment, huts and droids in the process. Fortunately they don't spot Omera and Winta, huddling under an overturned basket in the pond.

Cut to Manny and Baby Yoda flying through space in the Razor Crest. Last week Manny "liberated" the baby from the clutches of The Client, and the two are now on the run from dozens of Guild bounty hunters searching for them.

Manny realizes they need to find a place to lay low till the heat's off. He scans nearby systems and spots Sorgan, and figures it'd make a good spot to hide for a while.

Manny lands on the planet and tells Baby Yoda to stay put while he checks it out. Of course the baby doesn't listen, and toddles along behind him. They enter a pub in a small community, where they grab a bite to eat.

Manny notices a suspiciously bounty hunter-looking woman eyeing them. After a beat the she disappears. Manny tells the proprietor to mind the baby, and goes looking for the woman.

Outside, Manny tracks the woman with his helmet's infrared mode. Suddenly she attacks him from above, and the two tussle for a bit. Their battle ends in a draw when they both pull their weapons on one another. Manny recognizes the woman as Cara Dune, who he's met before.

Inside, Dune infodumps her backstory, saying she was a Shocktrooper for the Rebel Alliance.
After the Empire fell, she mopped up Imperial stragglers on various planets for a while. Eventually she decided she'd had enough "peacekeeping" and retired on Sorgan. When she saw Manny, she assumed some former enemy had sent him to kill her. She tells Manny she got to Sorgan first, and he'll have to vacate the planet for reasons I don't quite understand.

That night Manny tinkers with his ship as he prepares to leave. Two of the krill farmers timidly approach, and offer him money to rid their village of the Raiders. He's not interested at first, until he finds out they live "in the middle of nowhere." Thinking he's found his sanctuary, he agrees to help.

Manny tracks down Cara Dune and offers her the money to team up with him against the Raiders. Amazingly, she accepts. The farmers take Manny, Dune and Baby Yoda to their village, where they're welcomed as heroes. Omera sets up a space in a barn for Manny & the baby. She's clearly intrigued by the mysterious Mandalorian bounty hunter.

Winta and the other children are fascinated by Baby Yoda and become attached to him. Omera brings a meal to Manny, and asks when was the last time he removed his helmet. He tells her he took it off yesterday. She asks how long it's been since he removed it in front of someone, and he says never. He says he's worn it since he was a child, when his parents were killed and the Mandalorians too him in.

Omera leaves, and Manny removes his helmet long enough to eat (although we don't see his face). He stares out the window at the kids playing with Baby Yoda.

The next day Manny and Dune track the Raiders to their camp. They discover they have a decommissioned AT-ST, left over from the Empire. Dune says the walkers are tougher than they look, and that she didn't sign up for this sh*t.

Back at the village, Manny & Dune tell the villagers they can't fight an AT-ST, and they'll just have to move to a Raider-free area. The villagers refuse to leave, offering to help fight. Manny realizes they're determined to stay and gives in. He loans the villagers his weapons, while Dune trains them in how to fight. For some reason, Omera's the only one who knows how to shoot and turns out to be a crack shot (?).

Dune tells the villagers they can't destroy the AT-ST with blasters, but they can trap it. She orders them to dig a deep hole in one of the krill ponds, while the other villagers set up wooden barriers to hold back the Raiders.

Sometime later, Manny & Dunn infiltrate the Raider camp. There's a brief struggle as they battle several Klatooinians, and Manny blows up their main building with a thermal detonator. The remaining Raiders chase after them, along with the AT-ST.

Manny & Dune return to the village, where they tell the farmers to be ready. The AT-ST appears and begins firing, striding right toward the pool. Unfortunately the drivers sense something's amiss and stop just short of it. Suddenly the rest of the Raiders appear, and the villagers begin fighting them.

The AT-ST blasts away at the village, while refusing to step into the pond. Finally Dune runs through the fray and jumps into the pool, where she begins firing up at the walker. After killing one of the drivers, the other wades into the pool after her. The AT-ST immediately sinks up to its head. Manny attaches another detonator to it and blows it up real good.

The villagers cheer and fight the Raiders even harder. With their main weapon gone, the Raiders chicken out and head for the hills.

Manny & Dune remain in the village for several weeks, but there are no further raids. Dune says he should stay here and make a life for himself with Omera. She asks what would happen if Manny ever took off his helmet in front of someone, and he replies he'd never be allowed to put it back on.

Omera approaches Manny and says he could have a peaceful life here. She gently begins lifting his helmet off his head, but he reaches up and stops her. He says it's not possible, and a disappointed Omera says she understands.

Omera comments that Baby Yoda seems happy here, and Manny says he plans to leave him on Sorgan. She promises to raise him as her own child.

Cut to a bounty hunter in the woods, targeting Baby Yoda in his blaster sights. He's just about to squeeze the trigger when a shot rings out. The bounty hunter falls to the ground, revealing Cara Dune behind him. Manny thanks her, and discovers a tracking fob on the bounty hunter. He realizes the baby is still a target, and he can't leave him here.

Manny & Baby Yoda say their goodbyes to the villagers, who promise they'll never forget them. He and Dune say their farewells, knowing their paths will eventually cross again. Manny and the baby return to the Razor Crest.

• This week Manny decides to hide out on the backwater world of Sorgan. This marks the first time in the series that a planet has actually been identified by name.

• In true Star Wars fashion, the krill farmers live in a remote village with both primitive and advanced technology. They collect krill in crudely woven fishing baskets, but also have a harvester droid wading around the pools.

This is similar to Luke Skywalker, whose family lived in a hole in the deserts of Tattooine, but also had droids and anti-gravity landspeeders.

• When the Raiders attack the village, they steal their entire krill harvest. That I understand. But they also destroy their huts, tools and krill-gathering implements. That I don't get. Why the hell would they do that? 

The Raiders want to swipe the villagers' sweet, sweet krill, right? So why make it harder for the farmers to harvest them? Now they're gonna have to waist time making new baskets and such. Seems like it would make way more sense for the Raiders to leave the tools intact and just steal the harvest.

And why the holy hell would the Raiders destroy the villagers' droids? Couldn't they use those for themselves? They had a lot of hi-tech equipment in their camp, plus their own functioning AT-ST. Surely they could have scavenged parts from the droids to keep all that running!

I guess maybe the takeaway here is that the Raiders are just dicks and aren't particularly smart.

• The Raiders who attack the village appear to be Klatooinians.

We've seen their race before, most notably as guards in Jabba's Palace in The Return Of The Jedi.

• After landing on Sorgan, Manny and Baby Yoda head for the nearest settlement. For frak's sake Manny, pick up the goddamned kid and carry him. Sure it's cute as all hell to see him waddle along after you, but he's gonna have a heart attack trying to keep up!

• When they reach the settlement, Manny & Baby Yoda wander into a small local pub. As they walk through the crowd, the baby encounters a grumpy Loth-Cat that growls at him. Loth-Cats first appeared in the Star Wars Rebels animated series, where they looked a lot more cartoonish than they do here.

• This week we meet brand new character Cara Dune, an ex-Rebel Shocktrooper. She's the first unmasked female character of note to appear on the series, and she is freakin' awesome! She's a complete badass and I loved her character from the first frame.

Dune's played by Gina Carano, who's a former MMA fighter trained in Muay Thai. She definitely looks like a fighter, and I have no doubt she could kick my ass without even trying.

I think what I liked most about her is she doesn't preach or constantly remind the audience that she's a female. In fact her gender doesn't seem to factor into her character at all. She's a kickass bounty hunter who just happens to be a woman. End of story.

Even better, the producers didn't elevate her by tearing down the male characters around her. At no time is Manny belittled or made to look stupid to contrast her capabilities. The two of them seemed pretty evenly matched, and simply joined forces to battle a threat. And they made a darned good team!

Pay attention, Hollywood! THIS is how you write a strong female character! Make her interesting and formidable, don't have her emasculate her male costars and above all don't make her lecture the audience in her superiority. Show, don't tell!

• Apparently Manny's helmet has an infra-red mode. This is the first time we've seen him use this particular function on the series. Although it's cool and all, I hope we're not gonna get a new piece of Deus ex Machina tech each week. It's gonna be hard to cook up any sense of tension or suspense if he can simply pull out an appropriate hi-tech gadget to get him out of any possible situation.

• As usual, Baby Yoda (or I guess technically The Baby Of Yoda's Species) is the cutest thing on two legs. That said, ever since the series began there's been something about him that's been bugging me. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on...

This week it finally realized the problem— it's his eyes! Baby Yoda has enormous, ridiculously large puppy dog pupils that fill his entire eyeball! You can't see a hint of the sclera (the whites) anywhere. He's like an alien Keane painting!

Compare that to Yoda from The Empire Strikes Back, whose pupils were much more normal looking.

Obviously they made Baby Yoda's eyes so big to up the cuteness factor, but I think they went a bit overboard. OK, a LOT overboard. With those giant eyes he almost looks like a completely different species than the original. Maybe this race's pupils shrink as they age?

• In this week's episode Manny confirms that he wasn't born a Mandalorian, but was a foundling taken in by them. We already knew that based on his flashbacks of course, but this is the first actual onscreen confirmation of it.

• For the first time in the series, we see Manny actually remove his helmet (even though we don't actually see his face). He does so in order to eat.

I've been wondering how he eats ever since the show first stated that Mandalorians never remove their helmets. Does he shove food up his helmet? Does he slurp liquefied food through a straw? How about brushing his teeth? Does he ever wash his face? And what about sleeping? Does he wear it to bed? Does he swap it out for a special sleeping helmet? 

Thankfully we now know how he does all these things, by occasionally taking off his helmet in private.

I still have a few more questions about Mandalorians and their helmets though. Are they allowed to marry? I guess they have to, if they want to preserve their race. Can they remove their helmet in front of their spouse? What about during sex? That'd be kind of awkward, clanging their helmets together.

• When Manny asks the villagers if any of them have ever fired a weapon before, Omera's the only one who raises her hand. In fact she turns out to be quite the markswoman, consistently hitting her targets.

I get the impression she's lived in this tiny farming community her entire life, so I have no idea where she could have learned to shoot as well as she can. Obviously she has some sort of backstory, but we never find out what it is. And unless the series plans on revisiting Sorgan in the future, we never will! 

By the way, Omera's played by actress Julia Jones. She looked really familiar to me, but I couldn't figure out where I'd seen her to save my live. Turns out she played Leah Clearwater (the Native America wife of one of the werewolf guys) in the Twilight films. And yes, I'm embarrassed to admit I know her from that series.

• Cara Dune tells the villagers there's nothing on Sorgan that can harm an AT-ST's legs. What about Manny's disintegrator rifle? It can instantly vaporize people, so why not metal? And if it can't, why not? Does it only work on living flesh?

"The hour's approaching, just give it your best. You've got to reach your prime.
That's when you need to put yourself to the test, and show us a passage of time,
We're gonna need a montage! Oh, it takes a montage!"

"Show a lot of things happening at once, remind everyone of what's going on.
And with every shot you show a little improvement, o show it all would take to long/
That's called a montage! Oh, we want a montage!"

Yep! It's a training montage! Led by Dune, as she attempts to teach the peaceful farmer how to fight the Raiders with their makeshift weapons.

We've seen this exact same training montage in dozens and dozens of movies over the years. In every one of these scenes, some sort of experienced fighter always trains a group of unprepared villagers to use pitchforks and spears against a large technologically advanced army.

You can find this "Training The Peaceful Villagers" trope in Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Battle Beyond The StarsThree Amigos, High Plains Drifter, Dragonheart, Death Wish 3, Army Of Darkness and more. 

• The Klatooinian Raiders use the stolen krill to brew a glowing blue alcoholic drink called Spotcha. Mm-mmm! Shrimp-flavored booze! Yum!

• Kudos to The Mandalorian for making AT-STs a genuine threat for the first time in Star Wars history. Up to now they've been played for laughs, wobbling around on fallen logs or getting smashed to bits by Ewoks. With its glowing red eyes and superior firepower, the one seen in this episode is downright terrifying.

• At the end of the episode, a bounty hunter follows Baby Yoda to Sorgan with a tracking fob. But how? Did Doctor Pershing implant some kind of chip in him? 

Now that I think about it, how do the fobs detect anyone? What exactly are they tracking? Last week Manny broke the Guild rules by abducting Baby Yoda, and within seconds every bounty hunter's tracking fob began blinking and indicating his location. How'd the signal go out so fast? And how'd they know the alert was for Manny? There's no screen on the fobs, just a blinking red light.

It's almost like they're magic rather than technological.

• At the end of the episode, Omera tries to get Manny to stay on Sorgan. She even goes so far as to gently try and remove his helmet before he stops her.

Good! After finding out that Mandalorians never remove their helmets in public, I hope we never see Manny's face. At this point I honestly think it would ruin the character if we ever did. Far better to keep it covered and preserve the mystery.

These scenes regarding Mandalorian helmets are obviously seeds that are being planted for a reason.  In fact I think I know how the season's likely to end. Manny will find himself in a situation in which he has to remove his helmet— most likely to somehow save Baby Yoda. We'll then get a cliffhanger as he has to decide whether to take it off or not.

I'm terrible at predicting plot twists though, so who knows.
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